Growing up in a liberal protestant church, I had no conception of transubstantiation or consubstantiation. The church that I grew up in used cubes of white bread for communion. As a child, I knew however that little cube of bread was something very special. Because it was on a silver plate in church, it somehow was not “just bread”.
In the ninth grade, I went through confirmation. We were taught that the communion elements represented the body and blood of Christ, but no mysterious change in substance happened. It was a simple remembrance. I however still felt that bread cube was something more, something special.
I struggled to define this feeling that I had until I entered college and majored in religion. I was introduced to the concepts of transubstantiation and consubstantiation. EUREKA!!! I finally could define that sense that I had about that cube of bread. It WAS the Body of Christ!! I knew it was not just a cube of bread.
I would always pray and meditate with that cube of bread in my hand waiting for all to receive one. I remember one Sunday when my prayers were interrupted. It so happened, that on that particular Sunday, they did not use white bread, but rather cracked wheat bread. A friend of mine, not a regular church-goer at the time, commented to my mother about the “cube of bread”, “It has bones in it”. My mother, who was sitting between us gave a muffled chuckle. I flashed them a nasty glance, but could not hold back my amusement at my friend’s comment. To this day, I remind him about it and am glad that we use wafers!
Now, as a priest, I find extreme joy and peace in the celebration of the Eucharist. I truly feel the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through me. It transports me to a different level. I just feel different. It is like part of me is here and the other part is there before the throne of God. Words really cannot explain it without sounding like a total whack-job nut case!
So, back to my main point. Question: When is a cube of bread not a cube of bread? Answer: When, through the great mystery of faith, it becomes the Body of Christ. Even as a child I sensed this but did not know how to express it nor what to call it. Now as a priest, I hope fully to share this sense of mystery with my flock and society as a whole.
I thank God for giving me the understanding of this the greatest of Sacraments.